Intractable conflicts are hard to resolve because their sources are often deeply entrenched and closely interwoven. Most conflict resolution strategies fail to account for the complex nature of those cause or attempt to speed the whole process of conflict resolution and in the process are likely to produce ineffective results in resolving disputes. The underlying sources of a conflict are what make it difficult to manage. Due to the uniqueness of each conflict, there are many underlying causes of difficulty in managing conflicts. The ‘source’ of an interpersonal conflict is the underlying reason for the emergence of conflict (Cooke, 2006). Deep understanding and conceptually organizing the underlying sources of conflict can eliminate the difficulties in resolving the conflict. Understanding of human behavior in an organizational setting can help unearth the motivations of individuals involved in the conflict. While interest analysis elucidate the motivation of participants in the conflict the process of identifying the underlying sources of conflict elucidate the aspects of the relationship among conflict participants that cultivate conflict (Bedington, 2002).
What are the underlying sources of the conflict?
Another underlying source of the conflict in the company is threats to self-concept and worldview. A recent survey conducted by the XYZ Company showed that many workers felt that there was inequitable treatment among the employees in their departments. According to (Bedington, 2002), the viewpoint of the disputant threatens the other central ideas of the other disputant about how the world works. Complains about unequal treatment among employees raises concerns over the management practices within the company. Another probable underlying source of conflict at the company is communication difficulties. The company has reported that conflicts are more apparent when the French and United States employees are interacting. The language difference between French and United States employees may lead to misunderstanding or misinterpretation of meanings, language, and behavior.
What cultural or diversity issues may be contributing to the conflict?
Culture is a significant factor in conflict, by either acting as a proxy or playing a central role. People tend to make meaning and hold their identities when faced with conflicts. The increasing number of employee grievances at XYZ Company could have resulted from cultural differences that define American and French cultures. Culture is not extricable from conflict, even though it is not a direct cause of conflict. When differences surface in an organization, culture is always present shaping attitudes, perceptions, behaviors, and outcomes. Mergers always involve taking majority share of another company. Cultures of dominant organization often seem to be “normal” and this may cause resentment from the minority group.
According to Hyde (2004), diversity refers to individual differences that play a significant role in the culture and operation of an organization. The culture if an organization includes assumptions, customs, values, beliefs, rules, practices, norms, and skills that define and guide employees about:
- Mission and objectives of the organization
- How it conducts its activities
- How to relate with others within and outside the organization
Prejudice refers to negative personal attitude toward a member or members of a cultural group, while discrimination refers to “observable adverse behavior” towards members of the group (Kumar, 2010). A survey conducted by the HR department of XYZ Company showed that many workers felt that there was inequitable treatment among the employees in their department. Bedington (2002) contend says that the difference between American and French culture are so significant that the differences require to be addressed in advance. For example, French culture places a premium on the value of the relationship, and will go an extra mile to protect it, while American culture places premium on time management and directness. Failure to address these cultural approaches can imperil harmony in the workplace. The HR of XYZ Company has noticed that the conflicts in the company are more apparent when United States and French employees are interacting.
The merger between the two companies could have resulted into language barrier because some of the French employees are either non-English speaking or speak limited English. With the increasing globalization, many employers employ workers from different cultures who come with their own set of identities and behaviors (Bedington, 2002). Conflict and resentment may arise when on department is perceived as more valuable to the organization than others. This is the case with XYZ Company, where employees felt that there was inequitable treatment among employees in some departments. Conflicting perception between two or more workers may make them perceive the same incident in dramatically different ways.
What additional information would you want to have to thoroughly address these problems?
Taking a company to a global platform through merger or acquisition present the ultimate change for a business. It is imperative for the parties involved in the process to have a clear understanding of how the process functions (Bedington, 2002). Additional information required to effectively address the problems include complications associated with mergers. Every merger or acquisition involves some kind of integration, but the degree of integration will vary depending on factors such as compatibility of cultures, need for cost synergies, and size of the merger. In order to adequately address the problems, it is important to consider the corporate culture, which is often different because the firms do things differently. Some of the problems in the company might have resulted from different organization culture between the two companies.
Despite having a well-planned acquisition strategy, some fail because of the challenges faced in managing people related issues. The key to success to a merger is people, but they fail in the presence of people-related problems like management disputes, culture clashes, inability to manage change, and loss of talent. Some of the additional information that could help address the problems is to identify if the firm lacks the ability to sustain financial performance resulting from increased scale of operation. The firm may not achieve its objectives due to loss of productivity resulting from changes in the organizational structure and management styles. Merging the two companies from different cultures increases the chances of being affected by incompatible cultures. The merger could have also resulted from loss of talent as some employees work on multiple functions. It is also important to assess the ability of the employees to implement and manage change.
All these barriers are either indirectly or directly related to the strategic management of people and those cultural differences between companies is the highest barrier to success (Sims, 2007). In most cases, HR professionals rarely get involved at the pre-deal stage, which clearly explains why people and organization culture issues receive little attention. The problem arises from the fact that members who participated in the merger deal were not trained to identify and asses such issues. Remuneration is another factor that plays a significant role and needs to be viewed from the multiple perspective of strategy affecting employer, employee, and cost (Sims, 2007). Building and maintaining loyalty and morale, and treating people fairly are other areas that play significant role at this stage. Increasing number of employee grievances and unequal treatment of employees could have resulted from failure of the HR to effectively manage the integration process.
What method or system would you recommend to address these problems and why?
There are many ways of addressing conflict in the work place, which include avoidance, collaboration, compromise, competing, and accommodation (Yu, 2007). Avoidance involves ignoring the issue with the hope that the conflict will go away. Collaboration on the other hand involves working as a team to find a mutual beneficial solution. Competing creates an atmosphere where the best wins, while accommodation is where one party in a conflict surrenders his own wishes and needs to please the other party. Compromise on the other hand involves settling on a common ground where both parties loss and gain. Considering the situation of XYZ Company, I believe that either collaboration or compromise provide the most productive means of addressing the conflicts because there is not a winner or loser, but rather a common working atmosphere for the best solution.
According to the HR department of XYZ Company, there is an alarming increase in employee grievances and negotiation and collaboration could provide two paths for addressing the issues internally. In this situation, the HR department of the company can act as the intermediary and solve the problem. The company has just completed the merger process and according to Cooke (2006), negotiation and collaboration work best during the initial stages of a conflict. The company should collaborate with the employees that feel there is unequal treatment to find a mutual beneficial solution that abate the conflict.
Inequitable treatment of employees may be as a result of discrimination. To resolve this issue, the HR department or a manger could sit down with the affected department and discuss they in which resources are allocates and job tasks are assigned, making changes as necessary to ensure tasks are divided equally and employees are compensated appropriately.
The conflicts experienced by the company are as a result of the merger between two companies with different organizational culture and aspirations. Avoiding a conflict is the easiest means of dealing with it. Actively addressing conflicts as they occur can create a more positive work environment for all employees. XYZ Company should involve the HR to map the culture of both companies and develop a culture that accommodates both groups. This can involve developing a strong communication system to help halt the arising insecurity and fear amongst people.
Bedington, E. (2002). Sources of conflict. Grocer, 225(7546), 46. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/203408809?accountid=458
Cooke, L. (2006). Conflict and challenging behaviour in the workplace. The Journal of Perioperative Practice, 16(8), 365-6. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/217752695?accountid=458
Hyde, J. (2004); Managing and supporting people in organization. New York: University of York Publishers.
Kumar, R. (2010). Human resource management: strategic analysis text and cases. North Carolina: I. K. International Pvt Ltd.
Sims, R. R. (2007). Human resource management: contemporary issues, challenges, and opportunities. New Delhi: I. K. International Pvt Ltd.
Yu, L. (2007). Conflict in the workplace. MIT Sloan Management Review, 48(2), 5. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/224975465?accountid=458